Over the coming weeks, we’ll be previewing VCU’s entire roster, and today we start with the freshman class.
With more than six months separating VCU from the painful 75-77 loss to Stephen F. Austin and practice beginning this Friday, the long offseason is finally drawing to an end. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be previewing VCU’s entire roster, and today we start with the freshman class.
The way we play, it’s predicated on speed, quickness, and energy. Smaller guys tend to have more of that. As you mentioned, if we could find a 6-10 guy that has speed, quickness, energy, and can shoot threes, we’ll take him. If you’ve seen one, let me know.Coach Smart, March 2013
Over the next sixth months, Coach Smart and his staff put in the time on the road adding three ESPN 100 commitments to VCU’s most impressive recruiting class ever. Michael Gilmore, Terry Larrier, and Justin Tillman represent a distinct change to the physical tools of the cogs in the HAVOC! machine. VCU’s pressure defense promises to be longer and quicker than ever before. The class is rounded out by Jonathan Williams and redshirt freshman Antravious Simmons.
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#11 Michael Gilmore
Panama City, FL • 6-foot-9, 205 pounds
Michael Gilmore brings a really unique skill set to Richmond. He’s a face-up 6-foot-9 stretch four who can hit 3-pointers. He likely lacks the strength to effectively play the five behind Mo Alie-Cox, but he should see minutes backing up Treveon Graham this season.
As his career progresses, he could develop into a versatile scoring threat in the vein of Jamie Skeen, but his post moves and body need work.
#22 Terry Larrier
Bronx, NY • 6-foot-8, 175 pounds
Terry Larrier is undoubtedly the most heralded recruit of the Coach Smart era. The 43rd-ranked player in the ESPN 100 and 12th-ranked small forward, his length and athleticism will bring a new dimension to HAVOC!.
Larrier is a 6-foot-8 wing with athletic ability that will remind many of Reco McCarter. He’s capable of creating his own shot, can use his 6-foot-10 wingspan to intercept passes in the full-court press, and is a highlight reel waiting to happen in the open court.
VCU’s perimeters under smart have lacked size but have made up for it with speed. Larrier will bring both. This season he will probably come off of the bench behind Jordan Burgess at the small forward position, but during his career he is capable of playing the 2, 3, or 4.
Expect him to develop over the course of the season and to become a major contributor by conference play. Melvin Johnson and Terry Larrier should see plenty of minutes together at shooting guard and small forward. Is it too soon to start calling two Bronx natives the Bronx Brothers?
#4 Justin Tillman
Redford, MI • 6-foot-7, 190 pounds
Justin Tillman1 had an incredibly impressive senior season at Detroit’s Pershing High School. His gaudy stats and impressive play earned him a finalist’s spot for the Mr. Basketball award, and he even had a 40-point, 18-rebound, and 10-block triple-double.
He’s lightning quick for his size, boasts a 7-foot-2 wingspan, is a solid rebounder, has a face-up game on offense, and he rarely gets beat down the court. Most importantly, he’s a high motor player. Tillman’s ability to score on the offensive glass is immediately noticeable and it will help mitigate the loss of Juvonte Reddic.
Like Gilmore, Tillman will probably spend most of his time playing power forward this season before gaining the strength and experience to back up Mo Alie-Cox at center.
The Ram’s front court is ripe with opportunity but full of bodies this season. Tillman has the ability to distinguish himself early, but he could play a highly reserved role before developing in the coming seasons.
#25 Antravious Simmons
South Miami Senior High School • 6-foot-9, 250 pounds
Antravious Simmons arrived on campus one year ago with a college-ready 6-foot-9, 250 pound frame but redshirted. After the graduation of Juvonte Reddic and departure of Terrance Shannon, Simmons is primed to be a key backup behind likely starter Mo Alie-Cox.
With a year of conditioning and practice under his belt, Simmons will have a step up on Gilmore and Tillman at the start of the season, but expect big-man minutes to be more evenly distributed this season than in years past.
He posted 26 PPG and 15 RPG during his junior year in high school before committing to VCU. He was also a pleasant surprise in last seasons Black & Gold scrimmage.
Simmons has nice post game and will play with his back to the basket more than VCU big men in the past, but his role this year will be restrained to grabbing rebounds, protecting the paint, and competing with Treveon Graham for the nickname “Tre”2.
#10 Jonathan Williams
Newark, NJ • 6-foot-0, 175 pounds
The guy who's going to surprise people on VCU is freshman PG Johnny Williams. Built like a fullback. Big time facilitator. Going to play.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) September 22, 2014
Point guard Jonathan Williams committed to VCU in March of 2013 and spent much of the next 18 months in the shadow of VCU’s three four star recruits. Now that he’s on campus, the 6-foot-0, 175 pound Richmond native (attended St. Benedict’s Prep in NJ) has the skills to become a backcourt favorite.
He has a lightening quick first step, incredible body control, a knack for driving the lane, and impressive playmaking ability. He’s a four-year player who should be a mainstay at the point guard position.
Williams is third in the depth chart at point guard, but he should see early minutes in the season due to Briante Weber‘s suspension and he could see minutes when JeQuan Lewis moves over to shooting guard. The tandem of Williams and Lewis should be incredibly tough to keep out of the lane for the next three campaigns.
Photos by: Will Weaver